The Punisher season 2 has arrived on Netflix, and we’re here to break down the season finale, “The Whirlwind,” which will also likely be the end of the series as a whole. Like Netflix’s other Marvel shows, The Punisher is expected to be cancelled rather than renewed for a third season – but at least Jon Bernthal’s Frank Castle goes out with a bang.
The second season of The Punisher can be a little confusing to follow, because it has two entirely separate plotlines that are connected only through Frank – who is fighting a war on two fronts. One plotline concerns teen grifter Amy (Giorgia Whigham), who became embroiled in a plot to blackmail a wealthy family with photos of their son kissing another man, and is being hunted by a hitman called John Pilgrim (Josh Stewart). The other plotline revolves around Frank’s friend-turned-enemy Billy Russo (Ben Barnes), who was been left scarred and mentally traumatized by their last encounter, and begins building a vicious new identity for himself: Jigsaw.
Over the course of the season many players are drawn into the conflict, including Homeland Security’s Special Agent in Charge Dinah Madani (Amber Rose Revah), Frank’s fellow veteran Curtis Hoyle (Jason R. Moore), psychiatrist Krista Dumont (Floriana Lima), and NYPD detective Brett Mahoney (Royce Johnson). This cast of characters eventually all clash in The Punisher season 2’s explosive finale, which finally sees Frank embracing his vigilante persona.
- This Page: What Happens At The End of The Punisher Season 2
- Page 2: John Pilgrim, the Schultz Family, Billy Russo & Krista Dumont
- Page 3: The Meaning of The Punisher Season 2’s Ending
What Happens At The End of The Punisher Season 2
At the end of The Punisher season 2’s penultimate episode, “Collision Course,” Madani gets into a fight with Krista that ends in Madani hurling Krista out of a third-story window – just as Billy returns with a bouquet of flowers. Krista doesn’t die, but the fall lands her in hospital with serious and likely permanent injuries. An enraged Billy runs up to the apartment and engages in a brutal fight with Madani, who shoots him three times in the torso before Billy succeeds in strangling her into unconsciousness. Billy passes out from blood loss before he can finish the job, and when Madani wakes up surrounded by cops (including Mahoney), Billy is gone.
As Mahoney predicts, Madani did effectively kill Billy during the fight – he just didn’t know he was dead yet. Billy manages to make it to a back-alley doctor, whom he orders at gunpoint to remove the remaining bullets and stitch him up. He refuses anaesthetic, but passes out from the pain anyway while the doctor is trying to remove the second bullet. As soon as Billy is unconscious, the doctor takes all of his money, leaves the second bullet inside him, and throws his body in a dumpster. Billy wakes up several hours later and manages to drag himself out of the dumpster and stagger to the basement where Curtis holds his support meetings. There, he finally collapses against a wall.
While all that is going on, Frank is organizing a hostage exchange with one major flaw: he doesn’t have a hostage. Curtis took pity on Senator David Schultz (Todd Alan Crain) after realizing that he had nothing to do with the mess of blackmail and murder surrounding the incriminating photos of him, and let him go. However, Frank is able to bluff his way out of the situation when John Pilgrim arrives with Amy, claiming that David is inside the trailer with C4 strapped to him. Once Amy gets clear, Frank reveals that David is already gone, and he and John engage in a bloody fight that ends with John on his back and Frank ready to stove his head in with a fire extinguisher. John uses what he believes are his last breaths to beg Frank not to hurt his boys when he kills the Schultzes and (families being his soft spot) Frank decides to spare John’s life.
Just as Curtis is finally preparing to rest after several difficult days, he gets a call from Billy, who asks him to come to the basement where he has collapsed. However, it’s Frank that shows up, not Curtis. Billy isn’t particularly surprised, and tells Frank that if he has to be with someone when he dies, he’s glad that it’s him. Billy then starts to say he’s sorry, but Frank puts another two bullets in him before he can get the words out, finally killing him. When Madani, Curtis and Mahoney discover the body later, Mahoney is frustrated by the situation, knowing that Frank must have been responsible. However, Madani and Curtis convince him to let it go, with Billy’s death being put down to his injuries from the earlier fight.
Frank isn’t done exacting his own brand of justice. He heads to the Schultz family’s mansion with Amy, who confronts them about what they did to her and her friends. Eliza Schultz (Annette O’Toole) reaches for a knife to stab Amy, but Frank appears suddenly from behind her and shoots her in the back of the head before she can do anything. He then offers Anderson Schultz (Corbin Bernsen) an ultimatum: he can shoot himself, or Frank will release the taped conversation of him confessing to all of his awful deeds. Schultz, valuing his legacy above all things, chooses to kill himself; as Amy and Frank walk away from the building, there is a gunshot from inside. John Pilgrim, reunited with his sons, makes peace with Frank and they go their separate ways.
The next day, Frank gives Amy some money and puts her on a bus to Florida, where a friend of his runs a diving school (Amy said that when she was younger her dream job was diving for treasure). The two of them hug, and then Amy leaves for what is hopefully a better future.
In the final scene of The Punisher season 2, Frank is waiting in his car, scoping out a warehouse where two gangs are gathering. Madani, who has joined the CIA now that her career with Homeland Security is over, calls him and offers him a job as an assassin for the CIA, but Frank turns her down (she’s not particularly surprised by his answer). Inside the warehouse, the two gangs square up against each other, each believing that the other called the meeting. The argument escalates and they draw their weapons, but they are then interrupted by Frank, who reveals himself as the person who actually called the meeting. Wearing his iconic skull vest, Frank pulls out twin machine guns and starts roaring as he fires into the crowd of gangsters… and that’s where the season (and the series?) ends.
John Pilgrim’s Backstory With The Schultz Family
John Pilgrim is an enigmatic figure for much of The Punisher season 2. We know that he is devoutly religious, but he’s also clearly a very experienced and efficient killer. Gradually, over the course of the season (and particularly in episode 9, “Flustercluck,” and episode 10, “The Dark Hearts of Men,” we learn John’s history – and why he’s working for the Schultz family.
His original name was Robert, not John, and in his youth he was a member of a white supremacist gang in New York. 12 years prior to the start of his arc in The Punisher season 2 he left New York to make a buy and disappeared (along with the million dollars he had with him). John explains to his old gang boss that on his way to the meeting the alternator on his truck broke down and he got in a bar fight because of his tattoos. He killed the other man and ended up in jail, but at his lowest point was saved by Anderson Schultz (presumably using his money and influence to brush the incident under the rug), and turned to the path of religion. He changed his name to John Pilgrim, met his wife, and had two sons. Due to the magnitude of the debt he owed to Schultz, John didn’t hesitate when called upon to carry out a mission that required his old skills.
By the end of the season it becomes clear that the Schultzes do not value John except as an asset. They plot to let him be sacrificed on his mission, and are already making plans to adopt his boys and mold them to suit their own goals. John’s own loyalty to the Schultzes fractures when Eliza Schultz breaks the news of his wife’s death to him, and then uses his love of his sons as a way to leverage to dissuade him from going home and force him to continue his mission. Based on their conversation (and the way he destroys his hotel room afterwards), it’s clear that John has come to see the Schultzes as manipulators and false prophets, using his faith against him. It’s little wonder that he doesn’t try to stop Frank from killing them at the end of the season.
Billy Russo and Krista Dumont’s Fates
Dr. Krista Dumont’s backstory is also something of a mystery for much of The Punisher season 2. We know that she was injured in a fall as a child, and still suffers from severe vertigo, but it’s not until episode 11, “The Abyss,” that she reveals the full story. The patient “KM” that Billy read about in her files was her father, and he was also a soldier in the army, fighting two tours of Vietnam. Her father struggled to cope with civilian life after the war and, as Krista explains, “There was no one there to help him.” When Krista’s mother said that she wanted a divorce, Krista heard her father crying and came out of her room to try and help him. Her father hugged her, then told her mother that if he couldn’t have Krista, neither could she, and jumped out of the window with young Krista in his arms. Krista’s father died, and she was left with permanent injuries and trauma.
This reveal explains why Krista fell in love with Billy and was so determined to help him, and also foreshadows her eventual fate. Just like Amy, to Frank, represents the daughter that he couldn’t save, Krista sees Billy as a second chance to help someone like her father. She is so determined to save someone who seems beyond saving that she is willing to look past her monstrous actions towards other people (because, as she explains, she doesn’t know those people). But just as leaving her room and trying to help her father led to her getting hurt as a child, so too do Krista’s efforts to save Billy (by killing Madani) end with her falling out of a window and getting horribly injured.
When Ben Barnes’ “Jigsaw” make-up was revealed, many fans were disappointed by how mild his scars seemed. But, as Barnes himself has emphasized, Billy’s most severe scars are on the inside. At one point Madani even remarks that the doctors did a good job repairing his face, but his internal damage isn’t so easily repaired. Moreover, instead of trying to help himself get better, Billy is hyper-focused on hurting Frank as much as he himself has been hurt – temporarily tricking Frank into believing that he has accidentally killed three women.
Krista helps him with this plan, believing that ruining Frank will help Billy move on, and it actually does! Billy parts ways with his remaining gang members, picks up new papers, makes plans to move away with Krista, and even buys her flowers. He is at an emotional high point, seemingly close to being healed, when he discovers Krista after her fall – which wouldn’t have happened if Krista hadn’t tipped Madani off with all her suspicious questions. Instead of saving each other, Krista and Billy ended up dooming one another.
The Meaning of The Punisher Season 2’s Ending
The major theme of The Punisher season 2 is family, and over the course of 13 episodes the show explores the various meanings of the word. There’s the brotherhood of the army, which connects Billy, Frank, and Curtis, and is notably distinct from ordinary friendship. Frank even remarks that most of the guys in his unit were the kind of people he would loathe if he met them in the real world, but they became his brothers when they depended on one another for survival. Billy Russo, drifting in life without his memories and suffering from PTSD, seeks to build that same kind of family in New York City by recruiting similarly angry and directionless veterans and creating a new brotherhood – this time a criminal gang. A bartender who goes to one of their parties remarks on the frat boy mentality of Jigsaw’s cohorts, and many of them simply seem to be looking for a new war to fight.
Amy, meanwhile, is the polar opposite. She has lived without a family for so long that she’s more comfortable on her own and wary of any attempts to help her. For Frank, Amy is essentially a daughter figure, and he feels compelled to save her (aggravating as she can be) because he couldn’t save his own daughter. The loss of his family is a core part of Frank’s motivation, and twice in The Punisher season 2 he is on the verge of killing a bad guy – first Russian mobster Nikolai Poloznev (Dikran Tulaine) and then John Pilgrim in the season finale, but stops when they make a plea on behalf of their children. However, Frank has no mercy for the Schultzes once they realize that their efforts to protect the secret of their son’s sexuality weren’t for his benefit, but simply to mitigate any potential shame he might bring to them.
At the end of season 1, having exacted revenge for the death of his family, Frank parted ways with his identity as the Punisher. However, the fact that Billy Russo was still alive represented a splinter of rage in Frank’s psyche; he wasn’t actually done getting revenge, since Billy’s punishment was still ongoing. By putting Billy out of his misery, Frank also concluded the last bit of unfinished business with regards to his family, allowing him to move on to simply grieve for them instead.
So, why does Frank conclude the season by embracing his role as the Punisher and deliberately setting up the two gangs for the slaughter, rather than trying to live a peaceful life? He tells Madani, “I already have a job,” implying that he sees vigilante justice as his calling, and it’s possible that his failed attempt at leaving his alter-ego behind at the start of the season convinced him that he could never have a simple life. More likely, though, it could be the case that showrunner Steve Lightfoot simply wanted to end the season on a high note that looked like a splash page from the Punisher comics – and what better way to do that than by having Frank gun down a group of bad guys?